Striving for inspiration for this column, I attended the XpoNorth music conference in Inverness Continue reading
Everyone thinks they know Jim Gellatly. He’s still young in the broadcasting game, but experience-wise he could be Xfm’s John Peel, having broadcast from many of Scotland’s commercial radio stations. He can also talk the legs off a donkey (or in this case, fingers off a typist). And his fanaticism for Dundee FC is only rivalled by his passion for new music. Continue reading
Fraser Thompson is something of a jack of all trades, and master of quite a few of them. Including the Music: Response show which plays Tomorrow’s Hits today. Plenty of cliches, from a man who’s been in many music jobs. Just don’t call him Doctor Love…
One of the first things that strikes you about Xfm Scotland is the ‘cosmopolitan’ nature of the voices you’ll hear on-air – at least, in Scottish terms, with DJs from all over the country. Fraser Thompson’s voice itself hails from all over – but home is as far as you can get on the Scottish mainland from Xfm’s Glasgow HQ. “The first time I met Julyan (Sinclair, Xfm Scotland’s resident teuchter), he knew!”, he says of his giveaway Thurso brogue. Moves to Perth, Edinburgh and then west, explain what he calls a “ totally mixed-up accent.” Perth was the formative period for the Music: Response presenter as he discovered The Smiths and, ah, yes… “The House of Love” he exclaims. “I heard ‘Shine On’ and a pal had the album and that was that – I wasn’t listening to Runrig any more… it’s mandatory in Perth, you get given one Runrig album.”
Fraser’s own tastes expanded outwith Scottish shores aorund this time. “During 6th year at School, I was writing my own fanzine for 4AD records – I was a massive fan of Belly – and they got me CDs and tickets and interviews.” So a recurring theme emerged, evangelising about his favourite bands. “That’s why you do the job,” he enthuses.
Some more bastardisation of those north-coast tones occurred in Edinburgh. “I was studying Scottish folklore so the Runrig thing never really went away!” University radio rather got in the way of his studies, but happily for listeners, his 5-7am show was spared any more Gaelic Stadium Rock. But there was the infamous Parklife show – which saw the Blur anthem played 27 times in a row “for a laugh” (but surely enough to test the patience of Phil Daniels?)
Fraser is still able to return to the city (under cover of night we presume), indeed there’s a weekly DJing slot in a sports bar in the city. “It’s not exactly Xfm music, but it’s a chance to catch up with the old gang,” he confesses. Gig-going is usually confined to Glasgow simply by travel, but sometimes there’s a “necessity” to hit the capital, most recently for T on The Fringe, where his pals Glasvegas supported Dirty Pretty Things at the Liquid Room. “They have this little smoking terrace area out the back, near the bands’ dressing rooms. So if you want to stalk, take up smoking!” he laughs.
Glasgow is the place for local band shows, however. “You can see someone who gets added to the bill at King Tuts and 6 months later they’re headlining their own gig.” Indeed, it’s a handy way to chart a band’s success with movement up or own the bills. including Fraser’s pals’ bands. “They’re… mostly on the way up!”.
Fraser has been through, it seems, dozens of jobs, but perhaps his favourite non-musical stint was a spell as St Johnstone’s tannoy announcer. “In the 6 months I did it there were 2 UEFA cup games, which was perfect.” St Johnstone in the UEFA cup? Its’s hard to believe now. “Hey, you finish third, it’s like winning the league really!” he laughs.
He sees his (adopted) hometown team less nowadays – and given the lack of Saints games on TV, his armchair support has turned to other areas.
“I’m obsessed with American sports,” he confesses, “which means I keep rather odd hours. Sunday night sitting down watching 4 hours of baseball is when I’m chilled out. Sometimes during the World Series I’ll plan my day round it so I’m awake and alert during the 4 hours of the game.”
Fraser’s not just sat in front of the telly, however. ”I’m one of these infomaniacs, I can be sitting watching a football game and reading internet forums seeing what other people are saying about it, and when the adverts come on, I’ll put the radio on to see what they’re saying. I think it’s a disorder!” He might be right. “I’m checking messageboards for txts all the time, in case anything interesting’s happening in the world since 5 minutes ago.”
This isn’t exactly misspent leisure time, as it fuels another of his passions, pub quizzes, which Fraser frequently hosts or competes in. They tend to be either general knowledge, or music, and in the case of the latter, the pressure is on. “It’s fine if the question’s about a band I like – otherwise it’s like going on Millionaire and getting a question about Showaddywaddy – ‘but it’s a music question… you’re a DJ, you’ll know this’. Ask me about the Jesus and Mary Chain!”
Fraser’s love of information, music and indeed all things American neatly come together on the internet, as he enthusiastically reveals.
“Myspace is the greatest tool ever. I can go out looking for a particular style, by clicking on their top 8 or influences.” But surely he’s in danger of getting getting inundated?
“Since I started the Music: Response show people are more forthcoming – inviting us to gigs, sending us music – Xfm being attached to your profile is a great thing. People I’ve never met who I now adore got in touch – like Rieser, my favourite Scottish band… apart from Glasvegas!” he adds quickly.
Music: Response covers by nature a wide mix of music, so you’d imagine it might ‘force’ him to play music he may not like? For Fraser, however, the surprise element is the best bit.
“What I love doing is, either through bad preparation or for fun, not listening to a record first, so my reaction will be the same as the listeners’.” Is there not a danger of a sweary record creeping in? “They’re all verified by the producer… well, apart from once! It’d be worse if it was a bad record but it doesn’t happen very often.”
“The show attracts a whole mix of audiences,” he continues, ”so people who love, say, The Who, The Jam & The Smiths may be hearing new stuff for the first time – so we need to inform them, so it’s great to get reactions on, say, Guillemots. But you also have these kids who love Guillemots etc and have never heard the old stuff, like REM and Pulp”. (He slips into DJ voice): “here’s a great new band from Liverpool, the Beatles, I think they’ll do well!
The Beatles perhaps formed one of Fraser’s earlier musical memories. “You grow up listening to your parents’ collection. In my house it was a mix of The Beatles, Wombles and Songs of Praise – there’s still a lot of bands from before who I don’t know about, because in this show you need as information as you can.”
Which is all a far cry from a previous DJing job, at a mainstream station in Dundee.
“I was the next in line for a show and I was asked to cover The Love Show for 6 months.”
The LOVE Show?
“The girl doing the Love Show was pregnant – too much loving! It was interesting though, it makes you understand what other people value in music.”
Fortunately, he’s now able to get back to his roots, so to speak.
“I started off in student radio, where you turn up with your own records and the bands you love, but the more professional I got i.e. further down the line in radio the further away I was from the music I wanted to play, so at Tay I was playing pop – Westlife and the like. But at Xfm I’m back to playing the music I love and falling in love with music again.”
The stint in mass-market broadcasting makes some of his other jobs – flipping burgers,working in bookshops – look like a walk in the park. Well, apart from his stint as gardener at an all-girl’s school.
But is he – like, it seems, everyone else at Xfm Scotland – a frustrated musician?
“I had an electric and learned to play it a tiny bit, but I was in a couple of bands as singer,” he recalls. The first of these met with a megastar’s endorsement – well, sort of. “I never even met our drummer as we never had a full rehearsal, but one of the guys bumped into Jarvis Cocker and asked him what he thought of the name ‘The Judy Nylons’. He said ‘that’s a really really good name’ – so Jarivis thought we were cool!” His other band were also more successful on paper. “We rehearsed under this name just so we could go round town putting up posters, ‘8pm tonight, FREE… Experimental Love Injection’. ”
If Fraser Thompson chooses to leave Xfm he should be able to find a job ok, even if it’s not actually making music… perhaps a return to Scoune Palace to his post as underbutler, where he learned in which order you should serve cigars. Or at the other end of the social scale, as bingo caller?
“Never think that bingo is a game played by nice old women trying to win themselves a box of tea-bags – it’s professional gambling and it’s hardcore!” He’s not kidding either. “I’ve been threatened a few times, but there’s nothing you can do, press the buttons and the numbers are generated, – I was walking down Easter Road , I wasn’t even in the uniform, and all of a sudden – ‘You’re shit at the bingo!’.” Which made his Ministry of Defence post rather more tame. “I was in Heath and Safety, just like Homer Simpson!” This harks back to his time studying folklore, and an interest in more modern mysteries – “X-files, urban myths, UFO phenomena… there were some very interesting things I found which (adopts Twilight Zone-style voice) one day I may reveal!”
For now, Fraser reveals tomorrow’s tunes today, on Music: Response, 19:00 – 22:00, Monday – Thursday
Fraser was on Xfm Scotland when this interview was conducted, around 2005. Since then he’s been presenter of the Real Radio Scotland Football Phone In.
Now, nine years on, Fraser is back on the radio from April 8th as part of XFM’s return to Scottish airwaves (well, in Paisley and on DAB in Central Scotland) as he takes over the Breakfast Show from 6-10am.